A Guide to Lab-Grown Diamond Rings
DeBeers may have launched the tagline "A Diamond Is Forever" for their now-famous marketing campaign way back in 1948, but the uber-sparkly stone is still the go-to gem of modern couples. According to The Knot 2019 Jewelry and Engagement Study, which surveyed over 21,000 engaged or recently married people, 83 percent of engagement rings include a diamond center stone. Due to their rare and thus pricey nature (depending on its quality, the average 1 carat diamondanywhere from $2,000 to $25,000), opting for one of these gorgeous gems can be cost prohibitive for couples on a budget. Enter: lab-grown diamond rings.
Since their introduction to the jewelry industry, lab-grown diamonds have disrupted the way jewelers and consumers approach diamonds—and diamond engagement rings. The synthetic method of creating what was once a rare gem has made finding and buying diamonds more accessible to cost-conscious consumers looking for a less expensive (and potentially more ethical) alternative to mined diamonds.
In this article:
What is a lab-grown diamond?
So, what are lab-grown diamond rings made of, and how exactly are they created? The simple answer is that advanced technology allows scientists to mimic the exact conditions beneath the earth's crust where diamonds form, to create stones that are nearly identical (more on this later) to what you'd find in nature.
There are two ways to create a lab-grown diamond: The first is the High Temperature, High Pressure or HTHP method, which involves large presses that can weigh hundreds of tons to produce extremely high pressure at extremely high temperatures (think: a pressure cooker on steroids) that turn a diamond seed, or a very small part of a real diamond, into a fully-formed, lab-grown diamond.
The second way to create a lab-grown diamond is through the use of Chemical Vapor Deposition, or CVD, where a diamond is grown from a hydrocarbon gas mixture. A huge plus to these two methods: While natural diamonds can take around 3.3 billion years to form and then must be extracted from deep in the earth, a lab-grown diamond can be created in as little as two weeks. Once created, jewelers cut and polish lab-grown diamonds as they would with a natural diamond.
Lab-Grown vs. Natural Diamonds
Although they are man-made stones, lab-grown diamonds (sometimes deceptively labeled "synthetic diamonds") are real diamonds. While they are created by scientists and not mined from the earth, lab-grown diamonds are physically, chemically and optically the same as mined diamonds. Both lab-grown diamond rings and natural diamond rings are made from pure, crystallized carbon, possess the same ability to disperse light of different colors (read: give off that gorgeous sparkle), are extremely durable and come in the same shapes and sizes.
The only chemical difference between a lab-grown diamond a natural diamond is that most natural diamonds contain tiny amounts of nitrogen, and lab-grown diamonds do not. Gemologists can test for the presence of nitrogen, which can usually indicate whether or not a stone was found in nature. Another option: Larger labs have access to expensive machinery specially designed to distinguish between lab-grown diamonds and mined diamonds by testing a stone's fluorescence. These machines expose the diamond to special light waves that cause it to fluoresce (or glow). Lab-grown diamonds tend to fluoresce much more brightly than mined diamonds do.
Another major difference between lab-grown and mined diamonds? The cost. While the exact price of any lab-grown diamond depends on the quality and size of the stone you choose, they are generally less expensive than mined diamonds. Since lab-grown diamonds have a lower resale value and take considerably less time and manpower to create, lab-grown diamonds can cost anywhere from 10 to 40 percent less than mined diamonds.
Are lab-grown diamonds eco-friendly?
Reports show that the lab-grown diamond creation processes still leave a carbon footprint, as with any process that uses a lot of energy. While the diamond industry is committed to ethically-sourced gemstones, lab-created diamonds ensure a conflict-free production process. And, as lab-grown diamonds become more mainstream, celebrities like Bindi Irwin, Lady Gaga and Emma Watson are starting to wear the trending jewels on and off the red carpet.
Lab-Grown Diamond Engagement Rings We Love
Like their natural counterparts, lab-grown diamond rings now come in all styles—from classic solitaire settings to ornate, vintage-inspired designs. Below, shop some of our faves on the market right now, from some of our favorite lab-grown diamond companies.
Great Heights Lily Vintage engagement ring in White Gold 14kt, from $2,445 for a diamond and setting, GreatHeights.com
VRAI The Hover engagement ring in 18k Yellow Gold, from $2,441 for a trillion diamond and pavé band, VRAI.com
James Allen emerald shape split shank engagement ring in 14K White Gold, from $3,280 for a lab-created diamond and setting, JamesAllen.com
Couple The Pavé engagement ring, from $4,899, Couple.co
Helzberg Diamonds Light Heart 1 1/4 ct. tw. lab grown diamond engagement ring in 14k White Gold, from $3,999, Helzberg.com
KAY Jewelers lab-created 1-1/8 ct tw oval-cut diamond engagement ring in 14K White Gold, from $6,200, KAY.com
Brilliant Earth Selene lab diamond ring in 18K Yellow Gold, from $1,220 for an oval lab diamond and setting, BrilliantEarth.com
Ritani French-set diamond band engagement ring in 14kt White Gold, from $1,804 for a radiant lab diamond and setting, Ritani.com